In this post, we said we were going to talk about the impact of Josh Duggar’s alleged offenses on his victims, and we are, but we’re not going to talk about his specific victims. An important consequence of the release of the 12-year-old police report is the revictimization of the people Josh molested, specifically his sisters who are easily identifiable from the police report. We feel strongly that they and others have the right to privacy and we’re saddened that they have been so easily identified and revictimized through the release of the police report.
While we feel strongly about their right to privacy, we also feel that the victims of sexual abuse need and deserve a voice. We can talk in generalities about how sexual abuse and assault impacts the abused, but these impacts vary widely based on the individual, their age at the time of the abuse, the type and duration of the abuse/assaults, their support network, and treatments received. Writing about the victims of sexual abuse in generalities would do an injustice to the nuanced nature of their experiences.
After that post went live, over the course of 24 hours we heard from a number of readers who wanted to share how sexual abuse had affected their lives. Julia and I also heard from a number of our friends who wanted to tell us about the abuse they experienced in their youth. It has made us realize that everybody knows somebody who has experienced sexual abuse, you just may not know who they are right now.
Five of those who wrote in have agreed to anonymously share how the abuse they experienced has affected their lives as adults, to help give a voice to those who may be suffering in silence:
“I was very young, but it was obviously very confusing and detrimental to my emotional state and I was also suicidal by the time I was 11. I was not a confident young woman and eventually at the age of 25 left my hometown with the major goal of finally getting a handle on my life. I relay my story whenever someone tells me they were raped or sexually abused. Sadly, about once a year. I think it’s a surprise to most folks that I was also abused and I tell them so they know they aren’t alone. So they know it doesn’t define them as a person, that it is their choice and within their power to make their life decisions. The experience can make a person feel as though they can’t control anything in life, which can spiral into a wasted life when decisions are made for them. Once I decided I wasn’t a victim and being molested would not define me, I took action. And once I took action, I realized the hardest part was already behind me. It was very liberating to understand how resilient I am. I am also a more compassionate person given my history. I feel that everyone has a sad story, we should be kind to each other. Human to human.”
“As a 40+ year survivor of multiple sexual abusers … my life has been irreparably altered. Cumulatively all this trauma, (plus other life experience) has destroyed my natural responses to typical events. Hard truth: I will never see the world without the combined lens of betrayal, loss of childhood innocence, physically damaging sexual experiences, and unrelenting terror. However, despite those layers of horror, and with full understanding that I am a product of my history, I wholeheartedly refuse to be a victim to it.”
“I get angry about this stuff [sexual abuse in the news] easily now. I wasn’t taken seriously when it happened to me so I feel like I over compensate and be super outspoken when something like [the allegations against Josh Duggar] hit the news. I feel like people still don’t understand it and it makes me so mad because it’s like it’s happening all over again. People don’t realize how much language matters to people like me, I literally had the same thing happen to me [as the allegations against Josh Duggar] and when people say he was “just experimenting” what does that make me some kind of lab rat or plant or something? How [messed] up is that?”
“Honestly, I don’t feel that it affects me in any way at this point in my life except in two ways. I don’t like strangers touching me which I think is also pretty standard. The other thing is I am trying to be hyper aware and proactive with my own children because I know how easily and often it happens and goes undisclosed and unpunished. For some reason, with [my son], I’ve made a point from an early age to call his anatomy what it is. He knows were his penis is. I tell him that only mommy, daddy, and grandmas should touch him.”
“Being raped left me feeling less worthy of help and understanding than others, as though someone else’s decision to assault my body at will was somehow more my fault than theirs. The amount of scrutiny I faced and still face about how it happened and if I misunderstood the violent act against me still surprises me. Though I have worked through it, truly the worst thing I have had to deal with in recovery is not the rape. It’s the judgement and blame that comes laced around every supportive statement from family and friends. That’s what keeps many of us silent – because we often really need to talk about it with those who love us most. Unfortunately some of those very same people are so upset with the entire experience we’ve gone through that they inadvertently deflect the discomfort back on us. I was only a victim in those moments, I am not one now. But the language people use to describe me, it, all of it, that’s what creates a constant revictimization”
If you or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual assault or abuse, remember, there are number of resources to assist you. In the United States, RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) will put you in touch with local resources, plus you can call or message with certified specialists on their anonymous hotlines:you can call 1-800-656-HOPE, or click on the RAINN Online Hotline. In Canada kids and teens can call The Kids Help Phone, toll-free 24 hours a day at 1-800-668-6868.
NOTE: At time of publication (11pm 5/26/15) we were still receiving stories from the former victims of childhood sexual abuse for inclusion on this post. Due to the number of survivors who want to share their stories, we will dedicate Thursday’s post to the former victims of child sexual abuse as well.
DART Center for Journalism and Trauma. Reporting on Sexual Violence. Columbia School of Journalism. July 15, 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). RAINN Online Hotline.